How Do I Shred Lettuce?
Shredded lettuce is a popular choice for topping tacos as well as for making salads or beds of lettuce to place under shrimp or other foods. Although you can use bigger pieces of lettuce, including lettuce that is chopped, it doesn’t have the same texture that you get when you shred lettuce. Cutting it by hand is the most common method, but you can also use a food processor if you wish.
The best type of lettuce for this process is iceberg lettuce, and a firm, round head is better than a loose or oddly shaped one. Ensure it is clean before you begin shredding, since it can be harder to wash a lot of tiny pieces. Remove any dried or unsightly leaves from the outside of the head and discard them, then use a sharp paring knife to cut out the core, discarding it as well. Cut the head of lettuce into quarters, and carefully hold each section under gently running water, turning it as you do so to make sure that both the inside and the outside are rinsed. Shake off any excess water, and set the sections of lettuce on paper towels until you are ready for them.
Place one of the quarters of lettuce with one flat side down on a cutting board. Use a very sharp knife on the exposed flat side to shred lettuce in long pieces about 0.12 inches (0.32 cm) long. Essentially what you are doing is shaving off a thin section of lettuce from the entire side, which results in each leaf in the head being cut into a long, thin strip. Repeat this process until the entire quarter is done, then start the process again on the next section. Use this method to shred lettuce until you have what you need, then store the rest in the refrigerator.
If you prefer to shred lettuce using a food processor, first make sure the lettuce is clean, quartered, and the core has been removed. Put the shredding blade in place in the food processor, and assemble the pieces so that it is ready to use. Lettuce quarters may be too big to fit easily into some food processors, so cut the head into eighths if you need to do so in order to make it fit. Turn the processor on and feed pieces through the tube, pushing them down with the appropriate tool as needed. The spinning blades will shred lettuce much more quickly than you can do it by hand, so this method is ideal if you have a lot to do.
When I worked at a deli, one of my jobs was to shred the lettuce for sandwiches and salads. It always seemed to take me forever to get it all done with a chef's knife, and the results weren't always very good. I wanted to have very finely shredded lettuce, but I still had large chunks from time to time.
It finally dawned on me that I had the perfect lettuce shredder right in front of me. I cleaned off the meat slicer and set the blade to maybe 1/8th of an inch at most. After taking out the core and pulling off the outer leaves, I'd run the heads of iceberg lettuce against the slicer blade and put the results in a bucket of ice water. The slicer did a much better job of shredding that lettuce than I ever could.
One trick I learned if you have a lot of lettuce to shred or chop is to take each head and hold it with the core down. If you slam the head of lettuce on a sturdy table, the core should break off cleanly. You can usually pull it out and throw it away. Using a paring knife to cut out the core can be a little time-consuming if you are working in bulk.
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